O'Brien County's Bell-Times-Courier -

Area Ambulance Services Grapple with Critical Personnel Shortages


January 17, 2019

Representatives from Primghar attended a city council meeting in Archer on January 3, 2019. Loretta Edwards (2nd from left) and Susan Smith represented the ambulance service. Kevin Smith and Mayor Kurt Edwards represented the council. Paullina City Clerk Sandy Fritz is in the extreme left.

It was June 2018 when Tom and Glenna Farnsworth retired from the archer Ambulance. There were no volunteers in their wake to carry on the service. The loss forced the coming closure of the Ambulance Service. That service is due to disband in February 28, 2019.

In the interim, area services from Primghar, sanborn and Sheldon have been called on to respond in accordance with a contingency map drawn by the O'Brien County EMS board back in the 2011. The contingency responses were drawn for times when a local ambulance service was unable to respond or in a disaster situation.

Officials from the involved O'Brien County communities have been involved in talks since that time to determine a final resolution to provide emergency medical response to archer citizens.

O'Brien County EMS Director Jared Johnson and Sheldon SCAT Manager, Kevin Miller went before the Sheldon City Council to offer insight into how SCAT and the sanborn and Primghar services were helping with the situation.

Sheldon Councilman Brad Hindt spoke up at this meeting that he was disappointed about these activities not coming before the council sooner.

At an archer City Council meeting, held January 3, 2019 two councilmen provided an overview of their dealings with the area ambulance services since June. In that overview, Councilmen Bill Engeltjes and richard ludeke stated that first contact came on June 27, 2018 and described the circumstance of a first meeting.

Engeltjes said that he was in "Downtown Hardware," a business in Sheldon owned and operated by Hindt when Hindt asked to speak with Engeltjes about the ambulance situation. In a private interview at the store with Hindt, he says he did not get involved in the issue until it came before the council in December. He does acknowledge speaking with Engeltjes while in "Downtown Hardware".

Engeltjes' account of the interaction states that Hindt wanted from archer the ambulance or the proceeds from the sale of the ambulance, the reserves archer currently has in its county account for equipment purchases (approximately $20,000) and $2000 per year to respond to 911 calls for ambulance care in the city of archer. There is an unconfirmed report of Hindt also requesting archer's $7500 equipment support the county provides annually to each ambulance service. Engeltjes brought the request back to the archer council.

Hindt, in the same interview stood by a single statement, "I believe archer needs to have financial responsibility for ambulance service." He added, "What happens when the next town gets out?" He said offering service to archer is not fair to Sheldon citizens.

There was concern expressed to if this kind of reimbursement constituted double billing for Medicaid purposes and would then be illegal. Resolution of that question remains unclear.

Between June and December 31, 2018 SCAT responded to ambulance calls in the city of archer 3 times.

sanborn and Primghar ambulance services as well as their respective city governments were represented at the archer meeting on January 3. Both services expressed a willingness to help and support archer during the time to determine some kind of final agreement. City officials did not oppose those sentiments, however both Kooiker and Jim Zeutenhorst of sanborn noted that a city does incur costs [for having an ambulance service].

There was general agreement to have OCEMSCA and the 911 board reconsider where to draw coverage lines. Johnson will move forward with those respective boards.

Sheldon City Manager Sam Kooiker requested a meeting on December 13, 2018. Invited to that meeting were Peter Hamill and Brad Hindt representing Sheldon Council; Jared Johnson of O'Brien County EMA; Bill Engeltjes and richard ludeke representing archer Council; Kevin Miller and Dakota Brown of SCAT; Nancy McDowell and Sherri Bootsma for the O'Brien County Supervisors and Sam Kooiker. The guest list does not meet a threshold of a public meeting. Media could be barred from the meeting. It did not need to be duly posted. The agenda reflects talking points for the involved constituencies to put out there respective interests and concerns in how to provide emergency medical response to residents of archer.

O'Brien County Supervisors heard from Jared Johnson regarding the matter on both January 8 and 15. archer City Council met on the matter again on January 14 along with Micah Schreurs who serves as City Attorney to both Sheldon and archer.

Jared proposed to the Supervisors the development of an advisory board with representatives from each county ambulance service, each city government, each hospital, Board of Supervisors, the County Auditor and Count EMA. On January 15 the supervisors encouraged Johnson to move forward on developing the committee, expecting startup to be near the end of February.

There has been a lot of unofficial talk about the development of a 28E agreement between the four communities involved. On Monday January 14, 2019 the archer City Council approved a motion to advance a proposal to build into a 4-city 28E.

An initial proposal from the City of archer to the cities of Sheldon, sanborn and Primghar will include an annual amount of $3000 that archer will pay to responding services divided equally by the number of responses made with no call to exceed $350. Ambulance services in O'Brien County are not supported by a tax levy as a fire department is. Ambulance services are supported with donations from the public, insurance reimbursement and patient charges. Those revenue sources will not go away with any agreement reached by the four communities.

A workshop on the matter is scheduled following the Sheldon City Council meeting on Wednesday January 16 at 4:30pm in the council chambers.

This is a long term problem that may take a long time to reach a solution.

The archer Ambulance is for sale by sealed bid. Bids can be mailed to City of archer, PO Box 167, archer, Iowa 51231. A sealed bid must be in the possession of the archer City Council no later than the start of the Council meeting at 7:00pm on Monday February 11, 2019.


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